Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Freezing Stewed Tomatoes

I love to have food from my garden tucked away for the winter each year.  Tomatoes have always been a huge part of my love for gardening - there just is nothing like the flavour of a vine-ripe, homegrown, sun-kissed tomato.  And so why not be able to enjoy that flavour year round!  In addition to the regular canned tomatoes and the passata that I can I also like to have a lot of stewed tomatoes in the freezer, that way  I can add as much zucchini, peppers, onions, garlic and herbs as I like without having to worry about potential canning problems.

Stewed tomatoes are very simple to prepare.  I just blanch the tomatoes and slip the skin off then chop them into large chunks. 
While I am doing that I have the chopped peppers, onions and zucchini sauteing in olive oil- I've already run them through the food processor.
I add in some garlic.
Did I mention I was lucky enough to get to buy some gorgeous local garlic...and not just regular garlic - homelearner garlic! ;-)  My family went for a long time this  year without any garlic because we ran out of last year's garlic too early and I do not wish to buy the garlic from China that they are selling in our grocery stores.  Happily we had a supply of roasted garlic powder made by a generous friend out of last year's garlic and so we were still able to satisfy our taste for local garlic with that  (And yes, roasted garlic powder is as delicious as it sounds - we call it "gold" around here and spoon it out very carefully).
Once those veg are all satueed then I add the chopped tomatoes and cook it for a bit then add some herbs - basil, oregano or parsley usually.  Add a bit of salt and then let it cool.
Then I ladel it into containers (yes, still using plastic containers because I've yet to find something that works better for the quantities that I put by - these I can stack at least 4 high in the freezer).
And that's it.  The other thing I love about these over my canned tomatoes is that they already have all the things in that I would normally add to soups, sauces and casseroles (the zuke, onions, peppers, garlic and herbs) so it makes meal preparation throughout the year that much easier.

Friday, September 24, 2010

Putting Things By and Frost

Frost!  Two nights ago.
One of the troubles of living up this high if you are a gardener, and one of the reasons why we aren't looking up here for an acreage to buy, is the short gardening season.  Gardening time is done here but luckily I still have my garden in town.  I've been very busy putting things by for the coming months and my coldroom shelves and freezers are quickly being filled.  I love seeing all that goodness tucked away in jars, in the freezer and in the coldroom.  I'm looking forward to sharing some of my favourite preserves  here and also one new favourite - blackberry/peach jam. 

When I was making blackberry jam at my parents' this  year I came across a recipe for blackberry peach jam and thought that that would be a delicious combination of flavours to make sometime.
When a friend let me pick some of her homegrown blackberries and gave me a box of her peaches I decided that was a sure sign I had to try making some.
 I prefer to use Pomona's Pectin for jam making and so I decided the simplest method would be to follow their instructions for one batch of blackberry jam and two batches of peach jam and mix them all up in one big pot.  The result was delicious.
I never did quite manage to catch the gorgeous colour of it on the camera but it is beautiful and will make a gorgeous solstice or Christmas gift.
Of course we had to make some scones so we could test it out and make sure it would be gift worthy.  That only makes sense...right?  Summertime in a jar...love it!

Sunday, September 19, 2010


I haven't felt much like writing on this blog lately.  Two weeks ago my very dear friend of ten years lost her struggle with Inflammatory breast cancer and I am missing her dearly.  I think that if we are very lucky we will be blessed with some amazing friends throughout our lifetimes and I feel very lucky to have been blessed with this friend. I am heartbroken to lose her.  She was eight years older than I am and also a mom to two homelearning boys.  She had been there for me since the start of our homelearning years and was always a source of quiet wisdom - not just on learning at home and respectful parenting but on living life with grace, patience, consideration and zest.  Her calm, her steady pace and the way she never felt the need to rush were qualities I admired even though they were (and are) not natural to me.
I always felt that she was a person from whom I could learn much and in the last years, when she had been doing her utmost to beat her illness, she was even more of an incredible inspiration to me.  If I can live my life with even a portion of her grace, if I can face my difficulties with just a fraction of the positive attitude with which she faced hers, if I can move through life (even the challenging parts) with a sliver of her delightful sense of humour and if I can be as kind, considerate and joyful as she was throughout the years I've known her, then I will feel that I have lived my best life - well and truly.
I know she would want me to start trying to move forward now - past the sadness - and I'm going to make my best effort.  Whenever I start feeling sad I'm going to stop and think about her gorgeous laugh - the one that would literally burst out of her so that sometimes she would put her hand to her mouth as if to stop it - and her delightful giggle (yes, an actual "hee, hee" giggle!) which was joyful music to my ears and always made me smile.  She was an absolute treasure and I feel so very blessed to have known her, loved her and learned from her.  She has taught me so much about choosing joy and not sweating the small stuff  that I will be forever grateful to her.  And I'm sure for the rest of my days I'll be listening for her laugh...that beautiful, joyous laugh.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Garden Love Update

Last week I took some photos of my garden in town.  It has been a bit since I've taken any photos and it is amazing to see how much it has grown - actually it is shocking how much it has grown now that I look at the pictures from just over a month ago, I could still see my pathways then.
The beans that were just started to climb the poles last month are a wall of beans - enough to supply several friends and I.
The cherry tomatoes are acting as though they are all in competition to see which plant can produce the most bucketfuls of sweet tomatoes.
Some of E's watermelons are just about ready. 
And the cucumbers...yikes!  Usually I am happy to get a couple cukes off of each plant but this year, in this soil, I am getting at least a box full from each plant.  We only planted one lemon cucumber plant and we've had so many lemon cukes off it that it just seems crazy.  I have an even bigger respect for dirt now (and I already loved dirt) because I can really see how this soil makes it so very easy to grow vast amounts of food.  It's amazing really.
You can't really tell how big this tomatillo is in the photo but it is one plant and it has spread to be taller than I am (and I'm pretty tall) and about 8-10 feet wide at least.  The bees love it.
My pepper plants are falling over because they've got so many peppers on each plant that they can no longer stand up even with their bamboo stakes.  I've started making salsa so they are getting put to good use now.
And each time we go to the garden we come home with at least this amount of food.  Gardening in this soil has made us really want to make sure we have good soil to start with on the property that we end up buying.  It just makes growing so, so easy to begin with and then we can still work on building even better soil as we go.
Such a treat to be able to be eating what you've grown only minutes after it has been picked. 

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Tomato Peach Salsa

This is one of those recipes that I have adapted over the years and each batch tends to turn out a little differently depending on what kind and how many peppers I have ripe or if I have peaches or not.  I make this salsa even after peach season but I definitely prefer it with peaches.
This time I had superchili peppers, jalapenos and sheppard peppers (habanero peppers are also delicious in this if used in moderation).
I run the onions and peppers through the food processor and toss them in a large stock pot.  Then add the garlic and chopped peaches (I use peaches that are ripe enough that I don't need to blanch them to remove the skins).
Then I blanch the tomatoes, roughly chop them and add them to the pot ( I prefer to use Romas so that I end up with a thicker salsa but any tomatoes will do and I use what I have ripe).  Add the rest of the ingredients and an hour later you have some delicious salsa.
Isn't it gorgeous with those chunks of peach in it?  I always triple or quadruple it at least for each batch I make - if you're going to have all the mess going you might as well make really big batches. I also make some batches "mild" and some "spicy".  Here is the complete basic recipe.

Tomato Peach Salsa

3 1/2 pounds ripe, Roma tomatoes (blanch, peel, and chop)
1 1/2 pounds peaches  (peeled and chopped)
3 large bell type peppers
several hot type peppers (maybe 6 jalapeno type then add more depending on your taste)
1-2 large onions
fresh crushed garlic (1 head is nice but can use less)

1 small can tomato paste
3/4 cup white vinegar
1 tbsp coarse salt
2 tsp paprika (optional)

Put all ingredients in large pot.  Bring to boil uncovered and then turn down heat and simmer for 1 hour.  Keep an eye on it and stir every so often otherwise it can burn on the bottom as it thickens.  Then process in sterilized canning jars.  I use the hot water bath method and process 10 minutes for pint jars.  When I quadruple this recipe I get approx. 14 pint jars.